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Consumer Groups: Facebook's Facial Recognition Violates Privacy Rights

April 8, 2018

Facebook violates its users' privacy rights through the use of its facial recognition software, according to consumer groups led by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Their complaint to the federal government focuses on the use of Facebook software that identifies people in photographs that are uploaded to its site.

A complaint filed Friday by a coalition of consumer organizations with Federal Trade Commission said the social media giant "routinely scans photos for biometric facial matches without the consent of the image subject."

The complaint says the company tries to improve its facial recognition prowess by deceptively encouraging users the participate in the process of identifying people in photographs.

"This unwanted, unnecessary, and dangerous identification of individuals undermines user privacy, ignores the explicit preferences of Facebook users, and is contrary to law in several state and many parts of the world."

The groups maintain there is little users can do to prevent images of their faces from being in a social media system like Facebook's. They contend facial scanning can be abused by authoritarian governments, a key argument considering Facebook may be required to provide user information to governments.

The complaint is the latest in a string of privacy-related issues the FTC is already investigating, including charges it allowed the personal information of 87 million users to be improperly harvested by Cambridge Analytica, the British consulting firm which was hired by U.S. President Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Until Thursday, Facebook had not said how many accounts had been harvested by Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has also been hesitant to explain how the company's product might have been used by Russian-supported entities to affect the U.S. presidential election outcome.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify next week before two congressional committees.

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